The next in line for the war years Disney features is “Make Mine Music” a collection of animated shorts set to a wide range of musical compositions. It plays out as a poor man’s “Fantasia”, following a basically similar format and goal, but with far less ambition. Most of these wouldn’t be good enough to be featured in that movie.
Each segment is divided by title screens revealing the song and the artist responsible. Unlike “Fantasia” which was meant to be a fusion of classic music and animation, “Make Mine Music” has a more mainstream approach, featuring popular songs of the day from artists such as Benny Goodman and The Andrews Sisters. It’s an interesting approach and the variety of music certainly adds a different flare, but the shorts themselves are merely decent. None of them stand out in any meaningful way, and they range from forgettable to light fare.
This is partly because of the obviously cheaper production value. The shorts themselves are lacking in exuberance and creativity, often sporting very basic and simplistic backgrounds. In some cases, the backgrounds are little more than blank backdrops.
The best of the shorts are probably the two Benny Goodman jazz features, which in this case would be “All the Cats Join In” and “After You’ve Gone”. The former being a visually minimalistic dance number showing teens being animated and coming together to jam to the music. The latter is more abstract, animating the instruments of the orchestra as they dance and run around a colorful environment. These two have a lot of energy and move at a much faster pace than the others.
The worst shorts are “Casey at the Bat”, “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met”, and sadly, “Peter and the Wolf”. In all three there’s a common issue, and that’s the inclusion of narration. This was a complaint I had with the shorts of “Saludos Amigos” and a few from “The Three Caballeros”. The shorts are meant to be more comedic, but the jokes are very mild and not especially funny. They don’t compare with Looney Tunes or the Mickey Mouse character shorts from the day.
The worst case of narration has to come from “Peter and the Wolf”, which could have been one of the better shorts in this movie. The song itself is composed to not require words. Each character is symbolized by an instrument, making the music literally tell the story for you. Add to this cute animated characters and it’s a no brainer. Unfortunately Disney didn’t think that was enough and added Disney regular Sterling Holloway to provide a running commentary, telling the audience what they’re already looking at. It doesn’t add anything to the short other than annoyance. The other shorts with narration suffer this same problem.
Also, it’s amusing to note that the ending of “Peter and the Wolf” has been altered in the Disney adaptation. Originally, the duck is eaten by the wolf. It’s sad, but that’s what happens. Here however, the duck turns out to have been hiding all along, popping up at the very end. It’s such a copout that I wonder if it wasn’t a decision made due to the strong and vocal reaction to the death of Bambi’s mother just a few years earlier.
“Make Mine Music” is merely decent. There’s some enjoyment to be had from the shorts, but it’s no “Fantasia”. It’s not even “The Three Caballeros”, which at least had humorous central characters at the heart. It’s not bad, but it’s not that great, either.